Our most fun and unusual holiday so far

We came back to Thailand specifically to participate in a Thai celebration that turned out to be the most fun and unusual holiday we’ve ever experienced. It was completely worth the return trip!

In mid April, some of the southeast Asian countries celebrate their new year. In Thailand, it is referred to as songkran. What was once a humble Buddhist celebration that involved the ritual bathing of buddha statues with scented water has evolved into a 4-day countrywide massive water fight (unless you’re in Chiang Mai where it can stretch into a whole week).

unusual holiday, thailand, songkran

When visiting Thailand during songkran, you don’t leave your lodging unless you’re wearing clothes that you’ll be comfortable getting soaked in. Most locals and tourists carry small plastic bags that will accommodate money and their cell phone. Only the elderly (although many of them join in, too) and some of the monks are spared. Pretty much any time of the day you can expect to be doused.

Don’t worry. Thailand is usually very hot this time of year, so you’ll probably appreciate the cooling down.

unusual holiday, thailand, songkran

Homes and businesses will often have large buckets of water, children’s pools, etc., filled with water by the road. The children are usually armed with bowls and water guns while the adults enlist large buckets to drench passersby. Some of them don’t bother with buckets and just shoot you with water from a hose.

unusual holiday, thailand, songkran

Watch out for pickup trucks, too. Passengers in the back are only too happy to soak people as they drive by.

The holiday can also involve dressing up in floral shirts, wearing masks, and even cross dressing. Basically the idea of songkran is to have fun. And the Thais go out of their way to make sure it is a blast. No pun intended.

unusual holiday, thailand, songkran

In addition to being drenched with water, some Thais will “bless you” by putting a mixture of flour or talcum powder, water, and possibly menthol on your face. The cheeks are the best for this. If they put it on your forehead, when you get water dumped over your head your eyes are going to be unhappy.

unusual holiday, thailand, songkran

Different cities and towns have their own special nuances. Bangkok, being a very large city, is probably more sedate and has official water fight areas, as well as a long list of other rules (which may or may not be ignored).

Chiang Mai really gets into it and is probably the most fun spot in all of Thailand for celebrating songkran. Part of the city is surrounded by a moat which makes refilling your weapon of choice much easier. Even the police are known to get into water battles with people.

unusual holiday, thailand, songkran

We chose Ayutthaya for our songkran experience. We wanted a less-crowded town that was more laid back. Ayutthaya is also home to some UNESCO World Heritage sites, so we had great places to explore before the festivities began. One of the main reasons we headed there, though, was because elephants join the celebration. It sounded like too much fun to be able to participate in a citywide water fight and to get sprayed by elephants.

We made the right choice for sure.

unusual holiday, thailand, songkran

Songkran is easily the most fun and unusual holiday we’ve ever experienced. There are no strangers. Everyone in the city are friends, gleefully celebrating together, dancing together in the streets, and splashing and shooting people with water as much as they can. I walked around with a huge smile on my face the whole day. And I wasn’t alone. Tigger and I both agree that more cultures need to celebrate songkran. I’ve never seen a whole city come together like this to just celebrate and be joyous together. Happy new year indeed!

What is the most fun holiday or festival you’ve experienced?

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  1. I have to admit that Sonkgran is not my favorite holiday in Thailand, but it depends where I am. If I go to province and rural areas, celebrations are normal. At touristic places usually Thai New Year, easily turns into insanity.
    Carl recently posted..Ripley’s Believe It or NotMy Profile

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    • That’s why we went to Ayutthaya. I didn’t want to be in Bangkok or Chiang Mai for songkran.

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    • It’s definitely an interesting sensation. LOL

      He had a blast. Anyone with a squirt gun was fair game. I don’t think he felt it was fair to get unarmed people. 😀

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  2. That settles it. Next year I simply MUST head over to Thailand for Songkran. And I like your notion of Ayutthaya vs. Bangkok or Chiang Mai.

    Meanwhile… when are you headed here to Vietnam/Dalat, Talon? We have a holiday the end of this month, so I’m tentatively thinking of heading to Hoi An or Nha Trang. Hope we can rendezvous somehow…
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Here’s To All the Runners of the WorldMy Profile

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    • Yes, definitely do! I’ll be doing a separate post on Ayutthaya with a recommendation on lodging so you can use that when you come next year if you want. Really loved the town on the island. Could’ve easily stayed longer.

      Da Lat is looking like around mid May or so. Will just depend on how much we fall in love with other places while traveling (and how much we like or not as thoroughly enjoy travel within the country LOL). We arrive in Hanoi on the 25th and will be there for at least a few days.

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  3. I love this! Who doesn’t love a water fight anytime it’s hot? And even better is the community participation and friendship you describe. Just so cool – can’t WAIT to experience this!
    Heidi recently posted..Family Fun On The Mississippi Gulf CoastMy Profile

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    • Exactly! How can you not love it? I can imagine it getting really old after a few days, though. Three days was long enough in my book. In Ayutthaya, it was mostly the 1st day. After that it went so smaller patches of celebrations. But everyone knew where to go if they still wanted to have maximum fun.

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  4. I loved Songkran in Chiang Mai this year. Watching the families in the small sois of our neighborhood was just as much fun as being down in the moat area and all it’s craziness. It really was just plain, good, old-fashioned, water-fighting fun! Glad you guys liked is too.
    Gillian @GlobalBookshelf recently posted..Birth Of The Global BookshelfMy Profile

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    • So much fun! I think I liked the neighborhood celebrations the most. Just seemed so natural. Although, getting sprayed by elephants was also pretty dang cool.

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  5. This sounds like too much fun to handle! I recently learned there’s such a thing as the Color Run, and Germany (possibly more countries?) is picking up what they call the Holi Festival, I haven’t figured out exactly what it means (the website’s in German…), but it looks like some real good fun – instead of water people use a colored powder to cover everyone around them.
    The world may just be picking up some great rites & transforming them in to these amazing events :-)

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    • Both are related to India’s Holi festival. Definitely looks like a lot of fun. One of the things that I really liked about songkran is that it’s the whole country that gets involved, not just isolated areas. Would love to see that happen elsewhere. Hard to go wrong with a celebration that just involves fun. :)

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  6. Ah looks / sounds like fun!!
    I learnt about this holiday while vacationing in Thailand last November… Our guy told us how fun in gets, especially in Chiang Mai.
    Definitely one to add to the bucket list, hopefully I’ll make it happen sometime!
    Claus G recently posted..Skagway, USA (August 2012)My Profile

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    • I definitely encourage everyone to experience it is possible. It’s really hard to describe just how fun it is. Something you have to experience in person. :)

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  1. Where to Celebrate Songkran in Thailand? (or Laos or Myanmar) | The Working Traveller - […] What could be better than Songkran? Songkran with added elephants, that’s what. Ayutthaya is the place to go for…

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